Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Transitioning Into Fall

Fall is just around the corner, with last night’s cool temperatures in Greenwich being a cruel reminder for those of us who are in denial that summer is coming to a close. While I’m excited about the prospect of crisp, local apples, ripening pumpkins and beautiful foliage displays, I’m not quite ready for mums and pumpkins by my front door just yet.

That puts me in a bit of a predicament, as some of the annuals in my planters are starting to look a bit worse for the wear, with leggy petunias and scaevolas that turned crispy while I was on vacation, while other annuals, like my sweet potato vine and coleus, are thriving. It would be a waste to start again from scratch, but I can’t leave them the way they are. My solution? Selective replanting.

My petunias will be removed and in their place, I will pop in some SuperCals in terracotta, pictured above, a great plant that will thrive in cooler temperatures and will get me through till the first frost (here in Zone 6, the first frost usually occurs in October, but can be as late as November!). In the place of my scaevolas, I’ll be planting angelonia (pictured below), another fantastic annual that will do well through the early fall, while providing color and interest to my pots (I just have to decide -- purple or white?).

I’m also going to gradually move towards the harvest look by adding some Pennisetum rubrum, or Purple Fountain Grass, to the mix. Not only do I love the color, but I also love the movement, texture and playfulness it adds.

Another annual I can’t get enough of at the moment are the zinnias pictured in the top image. The color is simply stunning, with shades of yellow, orange and hot pink – a fiery mix that I can’t resist that is perfect for hot summer nights and cool, fall evenings. They’ll look simply fabulous in these Campania International urns that I have by my back door.

Need a specific suggestion for a pot by your back door? Email me! I'm happy to help you find your perfect plants.

What’s your favorite way to transition from summer into fall?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Outdoor Entertaining with McArdle's

This is the time of year that I can't bear to be inside, making excuses of any kind to stay outside just a little bit longer (just like I did when I was 8 years old, begging to stay until I caught one more firefly or finished one more game of capture the flag!). While I still might stay outside to catch one more firefly, I'm just as likely to stay out on the patio for one more glass of wine with a great group of friends. Cooler temperatures forecasted for Greenwich this week means I will definitely be out there again this weekend!

After working so hard on my outdoor living spaces during the spring, I want nothing more than to share the fruits of my labor with company. Entertaining outdoors is so rewarding for me; the food just seems to taste better when it’s enjoyed outside. Because I've developed a system that works for me over the years, I'm more relaxed and am able to enjoy the party more -- something that doesn't go unnoticed by my guests. At McArdle’s, we can help with those special touches to make your party memorable. We have everything from the floral centerpieces (our website has lots of great options; Just Beachy is a perfect hostess gift or summer centerpiece for a small table), to gourmet goodies perfect for hors d’oeurves and desserts and cocktail napkins to match any decor, to the chairs to sit on and the umbrellas to sit under.

One thing that can absolutely ruin a party is a pesky mosquito buzzing in my ear. This year, with West Nile being found in mosquitoes in Old Greenwich, I want to be sure that my guests aren’t worried about them as well. This year I’ll be using Bite-Lite soy candles in addition to the more traditional torches. Bite-Lite candles are not only adorable (they come in luminary, metal tin and glass jar styles as well as simple votives), but have a delightful lemongrass and spearmint scent. For those who are looking for torches, we have them as well. In addition, we also have a selection of repellant sprays in our Garden Shop (some of which are organic, and others which contain DEET for those looking for ultimate protection).

Whatever your summer entertaining needs are, McArdle’s can help! Just email or give us a call, and we can help make your summer party the one people remember all winter long!

What's your favorite tip for hosting a specatular outdoor party?

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Summer Sale and Other McArdle's Happenings!

It’s my favorite time of year in Greenwich – Sidewalk Sale is here! Greenwich Avenue is packed with people, cars and bargains. While you’re downtown, make sure you stop by McArdle’s and check out our Summer Sale on past-bloom perennials. We have some fabulous deals on healthy plants. I’ve got my eye on a gorgeous tree peony. Although it’s done blooming for this year, the show it will provide in May will make up for it.

Looking for something with instant gratification? Treat yourself to a bouquet of cut flowers! I love bringing the outdoors in this time of year, and nothing says summer to me like a vase full of hydrangeas. Join our (free!) Frequent Flower Club and you will instantly receive 20% off our entire stock of loose cut stems (excludes arrangements and out of town orders) for the upcoming year.

McArdle’s is also proud to announce our partnership with Red Clover Farms (located in nearby Seymour, CT) and their Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) program, by serving as a pickup location for Kimberly’s amazing, organically grown produce. Be sure to check out the farm’s blog, filled with lots of delicious, nutritious and seasonal recipes! Today’s pickup included farm-fresh blueberries, peppers, cucumbers, leeks, and much, much more. My dinner will definitely include some of those cold, refreshing ‘cukes. If I'm feeling really refreshed, I might fix a blueberry fool for dessert if I can stand being in the kitchen long enough to whip the cream (it’s way too hot to even think about turning on the oven for a cobbler). Give us a call at (203)-661-5600 or email me for information on how to sign up!

What Greenwich event do you look forward to each year?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

It's Not Too Late!

This spring was a slightly unusual one here in Greenwich – it seemed as though the cool, rainy days of April went straight through to the hot and humid days of mid-July, without any of the temperate spring days we’ve come to expect for perfect planting. There were way too many days in May and June that I decided were too cold or too hot, too damp or too dry, too rainy or too sunny to go out and dig. The results of all my excuses are a collection of empty pots on my patio and beds with gaping holes. Luckily, it’s not too late!

As far as those holes are concerned, I’ve got a plan that includes lots of perennials. We have some beautiful ones in our nursery area. I’m particularly drawn to the Lavender plants pictured at top. The soft gray tones of their foliage and the pale purple blossoms are lovely, but the real prize is their amazing scent. I’m looking forward to planting them in the early evening one night this week (when the temperature drops a bit – better for me and for the plant!), along with a few Platycondon ‘Astra Blue,’ or Balloon Flower (pictured above). Their airy lightness adds an element of fun to my perennial border!

Another perennial favorite is Echinacea, or Coneflower. My mom always had the traditional mauve colored ones in her garden, but I’m thinking of adding some of the newer varieties, such as the bright yellow ‘Now Cheesier’ (pictured above) and a bright magenta ‘Fatal Attraction.’ As long as I water them thoroughly both before and after planting and give them the full sun they require to thrive, I will be enjoying their blooms for the next few weeks – and of course, again next year!

Hostas, above, are another great choice. While they are reaching the end of their bloom time, the lasting foliage is my favorite characteristic. They’re a great plant that provides lots of drama for the edge of a wooded area or any other shaded place. I love seeing different varieties planted en-masse; the overall effect is simply stunning.

Sedums are another fun option. I’m going to be planting some this week in an old strawberry pot that was passed down from my grandmother. When it belonged to her, she always used it to plant Sempervivum, or Hens and Chicks. I’m going to mix it up a bit this year and include Sedum pachylados, above, and some of the more trailing Sedum siedboldii ‘Mecliovariegated,’ below. Requiring lots of sun and a minimal amount of water, the drought-tolerant succulents are a great choice to carry me through the dog days of summer! For those who may not have their grandmother's strawberry pot or are looking for a great, unusual gift, we have some great containers already potted and ready to be delivered.

One of the benefits to my procrastination? Many of our past-bloom perennials are currently on sale for 50% off! Located towards the bottom of our driveway, you’ll find many varieties of strong, healthy plants that have finished blooming for this year but will be back again next year. I’ve got my eye on some great varieties of daylilies, or Hemerocallis, that may have to be added to my shopping cart. As always, you can stop in to see our most current selection, or simply give us a call or email me!

What gardening tasks did you put off this spring because of the weather?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Shade Tolerant Plants

One of the most important factors to consider when planning what to plant in your garden, be it simply filling a small space, replacing an older plant, or creating an entirely new landscape, is the amount of light that the area receives. It was a lesson I learned the hard way as a child, as I tried unsuccessfully, year after year, to grow sun-loving standbys such as tomatoes, eggplants and peppers in an area of the yard that had northern exposure and was shaded by trees. No matter how much water, compost or attention I gave them, I had the same disappointing results of small, sickly plants with tiny fruits that barely, if ever, ripened. Once I figured out how much light the area received, I was able to pick proper plants for the conditions – and I turned my “black thumb” into a green one.

When you come to McArdle’s in Greenwich looking for a plant, whether it is for an indoor or outdoor habitat, the first question an associate will ask is “how many hours of light does the area receive?” Based upon the response, we can then guide you towards plants that will be best suited to your particular environment.

My little raised bed of tomatoes was located on our property in an area that would be considered “full shade.” It was on the northern side of the house and had trees overhead, which provided the area with no direct sunlight during the growing season. Caladiums, like those pictured at top, were a perfect annual that added color and lightness to a dark area. Other favorites of mine were ferns (both perennial as well as more tropical annual varieties), like the monsterous Kimberly Ferns pictured below, as well Helleborus species.

Areas that are “mostly shaded” receive approximately three hours of sun a day during the growing season. These are mostly found on the east and west sides of your home and can have trees overhead. Great plants for these areas include some ferns, hydrangeas, and rhododendrons. For those who are looking for more edible plants, mint (pictured below) is a good choice for areas that are mostly shaded, as is a red currant shrub or Gotu Kola, an Asian herb that can be used in salads.

“Part-shade” areas are those that received approximately five hours of sun during the growing season. Fuschias (above) are an excellent annual choice that provides a blooming pop of color, while Heucheras (below) have an amazing array of foliage. A few more hours of light mean that even more edibles can thrive. Delicious choices are rhubarb, with their colorful, edible stalks and decorative leaves (which are not edible), assorted berries and parsley plants, incuding Italian and Mitsuba (Japanese) varieties.

Looking for even more plants for your shaded areas? Come and see what we have growing in our shade section, located at the end of our driveway. Unsure if a plant will thrive in a specific area? We have a great handout entitled Plants for All Types of Shade available both in our Garden Shop and on our website’s Garden Clippings section. As always, should you have a specific question, please give us a call or email me.

What’s your favorite shade plant?

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Instant Summer Color!

Whew! What a week it’s been here in Greenwich! The cold, soggy days of May are gone – and the hazy, hot and humid dog days of summer are right behind. Worried that you missed your window for planting? Don’t be! At McArdle’s, we still have plants arriving daily from local growers, filled with lots of options for providing that instant and lasting pop of color in the garden, filling in gaps and adding drama to the green backdrop that the spring perennials will leave behind.

Annuals such the Lantana “Firewagon” in the top picture (sun-lovers) and as the Begonias “Bonfire” and “Big Rose Angelwing” above (super in the shade) are great performers and will bloom their hearts out for you all summer long, as will the Mandevilla “Red Crimson” below. All are annuals in our zone, but can be brought inside come September to overwinter should you have the space and desire. The blue/purple shade of Lobelia "Riviera Marine Blue," also pictured below, is another great choice if you're looking towards the cooler shades of the color wheel. (And have no fear - we're fully stocked with traditional standbys such as geraniums and impatiens as well!)

When thinking about color in the garden, many instantly gravitate towards flowers, forgetting how much variation in color, texture and shape foliage can provide. Varieties of Coleus, Caladiums such as “Red Flash” and Rheos (all pictured below) are familiar standbys in the annual category. Other great perennial choices are Heucheras and Hostas – while both are flowering now, their lasting foliage is the main event. Both are available at the end of our driveway in the shade section.

Have you finished your window boxes and planters of annuals and looking for something colorful, blooming and perennial? “New technology” Endless Summer Hydrangeas bloom on new wood, enabling what used to be July favorites to bloom throughout the summer, giving the shrubs instant and virtuously uninterrupted color throughout the season.

Whether you are looking for the immediate color (spur of the moment barbeque this weekend, or perhaps a long awaited graduation party but you just haven’t had time to get the planters done with all the end of the school year activities) or are planning ahead for the rest of the summer, we have exactly what you need. Stop by, give us a call or email me – the weather this week is forecasted to be perfect for planting! Enjoy it while it lasts!

What's your favorite way to add a pop of instant color to the garden?

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Going Green In Your Home Garden

Many people operate under the misconception that going organic is something that is too difficult and time consuming for the home gardener. The good news is it’s not nearly as hard as they fear—in fact, with a few simple tips, it can actually be quite easy—and the benefits to you and your surrounding environment are huge! Here at McArdle’s, we have everything you need to get started, from seeds and plants, to compost and other soil amendments, to natural, organic options for plant nutrition and pest control (for pests both large and small!). Below are a few “golden rules” to help you get started.

When going organic, the first rule is to spend some time and energy building up your soil with organic matter. Healthy soil equals healthy plants, and healthy plants are less likely to develop disease and pest problems later, due to the beneficial fungi and microbes that are present in it. In our Garden Clippings Center, located both on our website and in the Garden Shop, we have a collection of handouts providing helpful tips and information on the subject.

The second rule to follow when planning your organic garden is to insure that you are installing plants in areas where they will thrive, providing the proper growing conditions for each variety. Placing a sun-loving plant such as a tomato in an area that receives lots of afternoon sun will keep the plant strong, healthy, and—once again, much more disease and pest resistant.

Finally, the third rule of organic gardening is to act quickly when a disease, pest, or problem is first spotted. Early action is crucial to getting an infestation or infection quickly under control. (And remember, not all “bugs” are bad bugs! Ladybugs, Praying Mantises and Worms are all friends of the organic gardener.)

No matter what rule you are tackling, we have the products and the knowledge at McArdle’s to help you become a successful organic gardener. Simply give us a call at 203-661-5600 or email me at and we’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.

Happy gardening!